CARACAS (Reuters) - Mediators from the Union of South American States (UNASUR) urged Venezuela’s government and opposition back to the negotiating table on Tuesday after failing to revive talks to stem months of protests in the polarized nation.
Since anti-government demonstrations began in February, 42 people have been killed, more than 800 injured, and about 3,000 arrested, of whom more than 200 remain behind bars.
The unrest has been Venezuela’s worst in a decade, and drawn attention to the OPEC nation’s deep economic problems, including soaring inflation and scarcities of basic goods.
The opposition umbrella group MUD broke off talks with the government of President Nicolas Maduro last week over what they said was continued repression of student demonstrations and officials’ refusal to grant concessions.
Maduro has urged them to return.
But the foreign ministers of regional powerhouse Brazil, neighboring Colombia and Ecuador departed from Venezuela empty-handed despite shuttling between both sides since the weekend.
“The foreign ministers and the papal nuncio hope that a date for the next meeting is fixed as soon as possible,” said an UNASUR statement, referring to the Vatican’s envoy to Venezuela, who is also mediating.
MUD head Ramon Guillermo Aveledo said the mediators, who came at the weekend to meet with both sides, would stay in contact and return any time needed.
The government has an “allergy” to talks and prefers to impose its views, he told a news conference.
“By imposition, none of Venezuela’s problems have been resolved, old problems have worsened and new ones have appeared,” he added.
Maduro, the successor to late socialist leader Hugo Chavez, does not look under threat from the now-waning protests, given they have not spread far from middle-class opponents and the armed forces appear to remain behind him.
He says opponents, supported by the United States, tried earlier this year to topple him via a “coup” disguised as spontaneous protests.
Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Matthew Lewis